Category Archives: gardening

Baklava Ice Cream and Fruit Flies

You’ll be happy to know those aren’t related. Well, outside of their both occurring in the Shoes And Pie Test Kitchen. And my not being particularly pleased with either.

Baklava Ice Cream

The thought process went like this: Hmm, what to do with this leftover baklava? (I usually work from home, so bringing it to the office for the cubicle gophers isn’t an option.) I know, I’ll make ice cream! A vanilla base, with the baklava chopped into chunks. And instead of white sugar, I’ll sweeten the vanilla base with honey. No, the baklava has enough honey in it. It’s already incredibly sweet, for that matter. I’ll cut the sugar in the ice cream way down.

I’ve learned from years of ice cream experiments that a combination of heavy cream and whole milk is the way to go. Every time I try to “lighten” the fat content, the resulting ice cream is too icy and not enough creamy. For this recipe, I bought the required heavy cream, but decided to go with the 1% milk I already had in my refrigerator. I can add rennet to balance the lower fat content. But nooOOOoo, I decide to skip that step.

I reach for my sugar canister and…it’s empty. Empty. The Test Kitchen manager* is so fired. I don’t want to use much sugar anyway, but I need something. I glance at the brown sugar. No, too rich in combination with the baklava. Okay then, confectioners’ sugar, it is. ¼ cup.

Okay, time to add the vanilla, at which point I decide that rose water would be a better compliment to the pistachio/honey mix that is baklava. I don’t even have sugar, you can believe I don’t have rose water. Vanilla it is. And my secret ingredient: a shot of whiskey to keep the ripened ice cream from being rock hard.

Not terrible, but not a winner.

Stir stir stir. Pour into Cuisinart** ice cream freezer. Churn churn churn churn. Add the chopped baklava. Churn churn. Pour into a freezer-safe container, ripen for two hours. Open it back up, scoop (I’m already not liking the texture), take a bite…blargh. Too icy, too sweet, too much baklava. Back to the drawing board. Or not. The recipe came about as a way to use up leftovers, not because I really wanted baklava ice cream. Now, honey-butter ice cream with pistachios, there’s something I may try to work out!

Fruit Flies

All spring and summer long, I’ve been tending to a relatively healthy heirloom yellow pear tomato plant. I’ve been leaving the ripe tomatoes on the vine, because one pear tomato at a time isn’t very satisfying. But I am ready to take in the full harvest and chow down. As soon as I get home from the race in Kearney.

When I get home, there are 3 pear tomatoes greeting me on my front stoop. It seems that the tomato vines could only hold on for so long, and the time has come. I grab a bowl, pick all of the tomatoes, and see that there are what look like tiny, short hairs on some of them. Pollen from something? I blow. Nothing. When I take them inside and rinse them, I see that some of the “hairs” are still attached. I decide they must be a pest of some sort, and soak the tomatoes in water overnight to drown whatever the remaining little things are. The next morning I drain the now-clean tomatoes, and leave the colander on counter (because you should never refrigerate tomatoes. Sucks the flavor right out of ’em.). Evening approaches, and I’m so excited to have pear tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for dinner! With some fresh basil, a splash of aged balsamic, some cracked pepper…go away, little fly…and some sea salt…shoo, fly! And your friend! And…hey, what’s going on here? My kitchen is swarming*** with fruit flies! I check the tomatoes, and see that some have split open and are looking rather spent. Into the compost bin they go, my dreams of fresh tomatoey dinner dashed.

Too many flies OUTSIDE, not enough INSIDE.

I run to Teh Intarwubs for advice. I set out a bowl of apple cider vinegar spiked with a couple of drops of dish soap. I check the trap a couple of hours later to find the flies congregating near the bowl, but not touching the vinegar. I try home remedy #2 which involves a deeper receptacle, and adding a paper cone that the flies can’t fly back out of. I go to bed. In the morning, I’m greeted by a fruit fly party on the cone, but only 4 inside the contraption. I hear that patience is a virtue, so I’m not getting rid of the vertical trap, but I’m adding home remedy #3: a shallow bowl of vinegar with the addition of a plastic-wrap “lid” to trap the suckers who don’t drown of their own volition. They will not win.



**I went through 4 or 5 ice cream makers, manual and electric, before I settled on the Cuisinart. I’ve been using it for years now, and don’t have a single complaint. Well, I wish it had come in red back when I bought mine. :)

***If 30 or so make a swarm, and it sure feels like it


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We Wish You A Retro Christmas, part II

Freelance hasn’t kept me as busy as I would have hoped this year. I don’t have the extra money to buy whatever ornaments and decorations strike my fancy, let alone extravagant gifts. Instead, this is an opportunity to rewind to the Christmases of my youth. To use the ornaments I’ve collected from past years of color-coordinated decorating, and to let my tree reflect those childhood memories of color and light. And don’t forget the paper chains!

I’ll drink cocoa, made with my mom’s homemade mix. My outfit, ready for my friends’ annual party: a ’50s-vintage red velvet dress, found at a thrift store and paired with a matching rhinestone necklace, a bargain from Art Deco Dame. In my hair I’ll wear a fascinator, a gift from Erin at Urbanity Studio, and made with a vintage brooch. I’m making as many presents as possible, as part of an unintentionally retro, “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” theme. One thing won’t change, though. The holidays aren’t about what’s on or under my tree. Modern or retro, my holiday is about spending time with my family, both by relation and by choosing. And tinsel! :)


Truth in blogging: Candice DeVille, the author of Super Kawaii Mama, is holding a contest where entrants must write how they’d create the perfect vintage Christmas, in 200 words or less. The lucky winner gets the MOST. AMAZING. EVER. Prize package chock-full of gift certificates from some of my favorite vintage/retro vendors. Click on over for more details on this Very Vintage Christmas Competition.


Filed under family, gardening, holidays, nostalgia, vintage

Twerps. Twoids?

Snippets of information that WOULD be tweets if I could squeeze them into 140 characters. But I talk too much.

  • I smashed a large, lumbering, pesky fly last night. Whacked it a few times to make sure it was good and dead. Didn’t rush to dispose of it because 1. euw and 2. it wasn’t going anywhere. But 15 or 20 minutes later when I decided to do something about it, it was gone. I’m hoping that one of the housecats got it, but I don’t recall seeing either of them in the area. I’m waiting to be attacked by a giant and vengeful fly, hopefully in my sleep.
  • Mom brought over a DVD of Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas that she borrowed from the library, which reminded me of two things: 1. The library is a wonderful resource for obtaining books and music and movies FOR FREE and 2. I am not in the mood for watching a Christmas movie in August.
  • Yes, I was in Sacramento for Midnight Mass. Yes, I had a wonderful time. No, I didn’t take a single, solitary photo. Not even with my phone. My friend Rich posted some, though, so here’s a link for those. Nick took some pretty nice car photos, when he sobered up enough to figure out how to focus Rich’s fancy camera, and those are posted here. I’ll be heading back to Cali for a friend’s birthday at the end of the month, and I’m toying with the idea of heading out again in September for Billetproof.
  • After a few people put the idea in my head that I should consider going to school for hair cutting/styling, combined with the dismal print design jobs being advertised (or even whispered about), I decided to contact a local reputable-looking school. According to the enrollment gal who called me back, Colorado requires 1800 hours of combined training to get a cosmetology license, which works out to going back to school full-time (Mon-Fri from 8:30 to 5) for 11 straight months, or choosing the part-time option which is “only” 4 hours every weeknight except Friday, plus all day Saturday, for two years. We didn’t even get around to discussing the cost, beyond the application fee. I’m just not that serious about it, I guess, but that’s not a time commitment that I’m ready to make right now.
  • I’ve posted a few vintage patterns on my etsy store (more to come as I get the pattern pieces counted and envelopes scanned), and I woke up one morning thinking that one pattern, which was in my size, was just too pretty to let go. Of course, that was the one that had sold overnight. I did my best to make a hurried copy of the pattern before I shipped it out, but it’s not likely I’ll get to it in the near future. I have too many other unsewn patterns!
  • I have a basement full of stuff that I need to photograph and get listed in the shop. It takes an enormous amount of time; I’m sorry that I haven’t been better about it. If there’s a particular item that you’re waiting for me to list (I know there are a few of you waiting for specific dresses) then please harass me about it and I’ll get to those first.
  • My radish garden was a waste of soil this year, but my cherry tomatoes are doing well in their EarthBox. I’m also growing artichoke leaves (no actual blossoms yet) as well as Brussels sprouts and cauliflower in there. SOMETHING is chewing holes in the leaves of the cruiciferous plants, but I can’t find any bugs. Hopefully whatever it is leaves the actual veggies alone.

I need a nap. I’m cranky. I hope you all are doing well, please drop by and visit!

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I planted! Woo!

It took me a long time to choose my veggies for my EarthBox. Cucumbers? No, I don’t want to stake anything. Beans? Same problem. Cabbage? No, the one-to-one ratio of seedling-to-harvest doesn’t seem worth it. Hmmm.

I went to my local garden shop, where I’d bought my EarthBox refill kit, and poked around. Potting mix was way too expensive,  but the prices on the seedlings seemed good. I looked at different plants, I took mental notes, I tried to make decisions, I gave up and went to the grocery store. Directly behind the grocery store is an Ace Hardware, with their new Garden Center, so I stopped in to see if they had more options. They didn’t, but there was a sale on organic potting mix… if I could just figure out which sign on the shelves went with which bag…

“Can I help you?”
“Yeah, can you tell me if this price is for the small bag or the large bag of potting mix?”
“I think it’s for the large bag. Yeah.”
“Wow, that’s a really good price.”
“Yeah… I’ll be honest with you. See how those bags are taped up? The mice love it. They get into the bags and start eating it. Don’t use it for indoor plants. You don’t want to invite trouble.”

I’m using it outdoors, so I picked out two bags and the gal rang them up… and they weren’t on sale. That price was for the little bag. But she was nice and gave me the big bags at the sale price anyway. Whee! Thank you, nice lady at Ace! I picked up a strawberry plant while I was there. One plant for my EarthBox down, how many to go?

I went back to the local garden shop. I made decisions. Tomatoes, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, all to add to that pot of strawberries that I’d bought at Ace. And some petunias for the pot of lilies that became a pot of dirt over the winter. Ooooh, and radish seeds for my window box!


I spent hours yesterday, scooping and stirring and mixing and watering all kinds of dirt and dolomite and generally treating these seedling with care and affection. I followed the EarthBox directions to the letter, taking no shortcuts and not rushing through the process. I got it all full with dirt and fertilizer in exactly the right places using precisely the recommended method. I gently fit the proprietary EarthBox cover over the top, careful not to rip or tear the fragile membrane. I cut the necessary flaps for my seedlings, I planted them, I watered them, I closed the flaps back up.

Like a concerned mother, I peeked outside a few times during the afternoon and evening, to check on my little babies. The artichoke is going through a bit of transplant shock, but I think it will be okay. Hooray!


Today, as I left the house to meet a friend for some offsite wifi action, I looked over at the EarthBox to see how it was doing. To my horror, I saw two new holes chewed in the cover. Directly over the line of fertilizer, I expect to see a sick squirrel in the area soon. I have one spare cover, but I’m hesitant to swap it out and wind up with holes in the new cover in due time. I’m pretty sure I have a roll of black duct tape in my hardware stash, so I may try to use that as a stopgap repair.


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Bulbs and Rhizomes

My daffodils (early Spring) and tulips (mid Spring) have poked their leafy greens out of the ground. In fact, the daffodils have gone so far as to bud, but my little flower bed gets slightly less sun than my next door neighbors’ does, so I’m a bit behind. For bulbs that seem to be surviving without struggle every year, I am surprised at their complete lack of naturalizing themselves. Split! Spread! TAKE OVER THAT TINY PATCH! The Siberian irises (late Spring) will, I’m sure, not fail to disappoint me once again. If they come up at all.

The lone hyacinth that a helpful squirrel planted a few years ago is once again coming up through my gravel walk, because I once again forgot to relocate it.

On the front stoop, one pot of dwarf lilies has reawakened nicely, but the pot that faltered last year seems now to have died out entirely. It joins its dead bigger brother, the lavender pot. I have never, ever been able to keep a pot of lavender or rosemary alive for more than a few weeks. My plan now is to transfer the living lilies to the bigger pot that USED to hold the lavender, and try something else in the smaller, matching pots. What will climb nicely, and quickly, around the posts? Clematis? Some kind of morning glory? I have to go to the post office today (to ship lovely items to people who won my ebay auctions; hooray people who bought stuff!) which will take me right past the neighborhood nursery. Maybe I’ll stop in and talk with the ladies there about that, as well as what I can do to help out my patch of bulbs.

As Summer rounds the bend, I’d like to try tomatoes again, now that the neighbor kids are a bit older and less likely to steal the fruits of my labors to use as slingshot ammo. The EarthBox that VivaMaryFoley graciously gave me is still sitting, unused, in my back yard. I know that I have a TopsyTurvy planter somewhere, probably in the basement. And a big ol’ hook near my front door. I just might get the 8-10 hours of full sun that tomatoes require.

And all of this Spring-iness is written with the full knowledge that every year, we get hit with a dump of a snowfall as soon as my fruit tree is in full bloom, and I can’t really plant anything until then. So, aside from a trip to the nursery for talking and maybe fertilizing purposes, today will actually be about shipping packages and attempting a bacon-apple pie. Or perhaps it’s an apple-bacon pie. We shall see…


It may be a bit late in the season (Marge) but I know that last summer (Marge) I had mentioned that I would be holding on to the old windows I had replaced (or maybe Fruitlady) in case anyone wanted to build a cold frame or something. (They’re single-pane glass, so salvage yards won’t take them.) They’re still in my back yard, free for the taking. All I require of you is enough of a heads up that I can put on the tea kettle. And bulldoze all the stalled craftyness from the dining room table.

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Filed under diner pie, food, gardening, Is it safe to remove the gas masks?, life-threatening clutter